Some Basic Truths

April 26, 2011  |  Category: Health ITRegulatory Updates

Late last week within a span of 24 hours, I saw separate items about two sides of the same “EHR usability” coin: how the software is designed; and the need for testing it once it’s deployed.

First, IDC Health Insights bemoaned the fact that “the design of applications that facilitate the digital health experience is often far removed from the needs of users who deliver care, and the workflow and processes in their care environment.” True.

Then Modern Healthcare reported on a meeting of the adoption and certification work group of the Health Information Technology Policy Committee (HITPC) to discuss the merits of and approaches to EHR usability testing. The report quoted one academic as saying, “If health IT were more usable, our current carrot-and-stick policies would have been superfluous.” Also true.

But here’s another truth: For a hospital, the ultimate test of software usability is how many physicians voluntarily use the software. Other testing regimens may be marginally useful, but in many ways seem superfluous. Give physicians technology that makes them more efficient, and you’ll get voluntary adoption. (Exhibit A: the Apple iPad.) Software adoption by affiliated community physicians (who have a choice in the matter) is the acid test of usability.

As for software design, the truth is physicians finally can get applications designed with their workflow in mind, if they (and the hospitals at which they work) look carefully. (Hint: Put PatientKeeper on the “short list”.) And, to keep the hospital IT staff happy, these applications can integrate smoothly with the IT infrastructure hospitals already have in place.

Dr. Ross Koppel of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who testified at the HITPC meeting, was quoted in Modern Healthcare as saying, “Good design and functionality are mutually reinforcing and encourage voluntary adoption.”

Translation: Physicians will gladly use what works for them.

Very true!